What happens if I call the police?

Detective Inspector Louise Boyce from Avon and Somerset Police explains what happens when you first call the police:

“No-one can decide what’s right for you, but if you do decide to make a report, we will do everything we can to make sure you receive the best possible care and support. Your welfare is our priority and we have specially trained officers working around the clock to offer advice and support.

“You may find it frightening or feel the time is not right but the sooner it’s reported, the sooner we can obtain crucial evidence that could help us to identify and bring the offender to justice.

“Our first response officers have had special training to help people who have been the victim of rape and sexual assault and to offer advice and support. When you first contact the police, someone will stay on the phone with you until a specialist officer arrives. When they arrive, they will take a first account of events. You may be asked to give a mouth swab and a urine sample as early evidence.

“They will work with Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, counsellors, nurses and staff at The Bridge or other centres to ensure you are receiving all the care and support you require.

“Talking about what’s happened can often be one of the hardest things those who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted have to do. I’d like to reassure people that our experienced officers are trained to put you at ease, will be open, honest and do their best to minimise trauma and offer support for as long as you would like, even if you eventually decide not to support the police prosecution.

“Please remember there’s no justification for rape, so do not think you are to blame. Whatever the situation – whatever your relationship with the person, wherever you were, whatever you were wearing or whatever you were drinking or taking – you did not ask to be raped or sexually assaulted and it wasn’t your fault.

“You can report the attack to the police straight away, later, or not at all if you choose. If you report an attack soon after it has happened, however, it may give the police an opportunity to get physical evidence against your attacker that might be gone if you report the crime later.”

If you are a victim of rape, sexual assault or domestic abuse, or you know someone who is, call the police on 101, or speak to an officer, or contact them online. If the rape or sexual assault has occurred recently, you should contact the police on 999 to help them deal with it as urgently and effectively as possible.

If you don’t want to talk with the police, please contact one of the support organisations listed here.

After the first report’s been made

Making a statement

After the first account has been taken, over the next few days the officer will help you make a detailed statement or conduct a video interview about what has happened. They will try to get enough information so that you won’t need to be interviewed again. In some cases the interview may be delayed until you’re physically and emotionally strong enough to go ahead.

The Court process

Going to court may be a daunting thing for you when you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault. You will be supported every step of the way – from initial report to court – by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and your Independent Sexual Violence Advisor.

The court will allocate a Witness Care Officer who will also offer you help and advice. They will be able to assist with practical arrangements to get you to court, including helping to arrange transport, childcare and time off work.

The Witness Service

The Witness Service is run by Victim Support, a voluntary organisation. It helps witnesses cope with going to court by giving them information and support. Family and friends who are attending court can get help too, as well as children. It works with both prosecution and defence witnesses.

Visiting the court beforehand

Your Witness Care Officer will put you in touch with the Witness Service who will arrange a court visit for you. This can take place in advance or on the day of the trial. The Witness Service volunteer or court usher will give you a tour of the court which includes the court room, witness suite and the court facilities. They can also tell you how any special measures work (if these are required).

Giving evidence in court

When the court is ready for you to give your evidence, you will be shown to the witness box. You will be asked to take the oath and swear to tell the truth. You are only allowed to refresh your memory and see your statement on the day of the trial, before you go into the court.

Special Measures

Your Witness Care Officer will discuss your individual needs with you. Some witnesses find the process of giving evidence in court particularly difficult or daunting and may be allowed Special Measures to help them give their evidence in the best possible way.

Special Measures are not available to everyone but will be offered to victims and witnesses who are particularly vulnerable. Your Witness Care Officer will explain these fully, however, the most common ones used are:

  • A video link from the witness suite or remote location so you do not have to give evidence in the courtroom
  • Screens so the accused cannot see you
  • Interpreter for those with language difficulties

Intermediaries are available for witnesses who may need assistance understanding the process and communicating evidence, for example young children or someone with learning or communication difficulties

Anonymity

Many victims are worried that people will find out what happened to them. This is not the case, the law protects you and gives you anonymity for the rest of your life.

This means that no information, such as your name, address, where you work, who your family and friends are, can be published by the media or on social media.

Visit our help and support page.